7 Ways to Collect First-Party Data After the Cookies Vanish

June 16, 2022
Written by
Jesse Sumrak
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own
Reviewed by
Ayanna Julien
Opinions expressed by Twilio contributors are their own

7 Ways to Collect First-Party Data After the Cookies Vanish

Third-party cookies are going stale, but the online oven is heating up for first-party data.


For some reason, we marketers can't avoid a painfully “good” pun when it comes to third-party cookies. Maybe we're hungry? Or perhaps we've just got to sneak in an awkward dad joke every once in a while? So please, bear with me—maybe humor me with a chuckle, a giggle, or even a head nod.

News outlets might be fixating on cookies vanishing, but we're more focused on new and better ways to collect first-party data. After all, we all knew this was coming eventually (with General Data Protection Regulation and Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection), and data privacy restrictions will only get tighter for marketers moving forward.

Fortunately, all isn’t lost.

Marketers still have plenty of tactics in their toolbelt to serve customers with relevant advertisements and content. It'll take a bit more work and ingenuity—no doubt about that—but it's definitely doable.

And we'll help you know how in this post. Below, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about vanishing cookies, first-party data, and tactics for collecting (and using) first-party data in a cookieless world.

Bye-bye cookies

third-party cookies

First, let's get on the same page (hopefully, the right page) about what's going on with these vanishing cookies. For starters, not all the cookies will go bye-bye—just the browser-based cookies (for now).

That means you'll still be able to use first-party cookies on your website to track user behavior, collect basic data, and help your users remember their increasingly difficult passwords.

However, you won't be able to see everything else your visitors do online. For example, you won't know about the other websites your customers frequently visit, their purchases on other platforms, or other interests.

The importance of first-party data (why it matters)

First-party data is more accurate and reliable and usually cheaper to acquire. When a customer visits your sites, purchases a software subscription plan, and begins using your application, you collect tons of first-party data about them—and they pay you as you do it.

It’s excellent for retaining and remarketing to current and previous customers, but it can be difficult when you try to find and prospect new buyers. That's where third-party data tends to come in handy.

However, third-party data will never give you deep insights into your customers, unlike your first-party data. Here's why first-party data is almost always the better source:
  • Quality: First-party data tells you a lot more about your customers than any third-party source, helping you build personalized experiences for your audience.
  • Accuracy: First-party data you collect is trustworthy. You know the methods you used and where the data came from, and you can trust it. 
  • Timeliness: First-party data you capture is fresh and up to date. You know when you collected it and if it's recent enough to be reliable. With third-party data, you sometimes have no idea how old it might be.
  • Affordability: Third-party data can be expensive, whereas first-party data isn't always cheap to collect, but it's borderline free once you've got your systems and processes set up.
  • Relevancy: First-party data you collect is relevant to your products and services. For example, when you conduct a survey with your customers, you ask the exact questions you want answers to—not questions that might be relevant to your brand.
  • Ownership: First-party data you capture is exclusively yours. It's yours forever, and nobody can take it away—not even Google or Facebook.

First-party data vs. third-party data

how to collect 1st-party data

What is first-party data?

First-party data is any information you collect about your customers directly. You own this information.

It could include:
  • Customers’ purchase history
  • Users’ preferences set in their accounts
  • Interactions with your email campaigns
  • Conversations users had with your customer support team

What is third-party data?

Third-party data is information that comes from an outside source, such as other websites and mobile applications. This information is usually collected, segmented, and sold to businesses for advertising purposes. 

For example, an apparel website could sell data about its users' preferences. Another business could purchase this data from a third-party data source and use it to sell its gear or apparel.

What is second-party data?

While we're on the topic, we might as well discuss second-party data, too. Second-party data is first-party data that you obtain from a trusted partner. 

This data is more reliable than third-party data and usually more relevant to your brand's products and services. Plus, it's not sold openly (or shouldn't be), which means you get exclusive access to these audience insights.

How to collect first-party data in a cookieless world

Fortunately, the cookie changes don’t impact first-party data collection. And you likely already use various methods to collect different data without impacting the customer experience. The real challenge is sourcing, cleaning, and activating this data, but we have an answer to that: Segment.

More on Segment’s data management platform in a minute.

First, let's discuss a few common ways to collect first-party data:
  1. Websites: Obtain valuable information from your website like names, email addresses, phone numbers, behaviors, preferences, transactions, and more.
  2. Surveys: Collect all the information you want about your customers with a survey. The easy part is choosing the data you want to collect—the hard part is getting your customers to complete it.
  3. Email and SMS: Use your email and SMS campaigns' metrics (opens, clicks, unsubscribes, spam reports, etc.) to learn about your customers' preferences and behaviors.
  4. CRM systems: Learn about your customers' purchase history to inform what items you might want to sell or resell to them. This data can also reveal broader business insights, such as which products perform best and which aren't doing so hot.
  5. Customer service interactions: Discover which products your customers are interested in purchasing and problems they need help solving through your call center interactions. Then, use your customer feedback to improve your marketing efforts and serve more personalized ads. 
  6. Direct mail: Use direct mail campaigns to learn what offline tactics work with your audience. For example, if a customer uses a coupon code from your direct mail campaign to purchase an item, you might use a similar digital approach with that customer in the future. 
  7. Mobile apps: Learn about your customers' behaviors as they navigate your mobile app and take (and don't take) different actions.
These are just a few examples of first-party data. There are plenty of other ways you can collect information about your customers.

Ways to market and advertise with first-party data

First-party data vs. third-party data

You don't need third-party data to launch high return-on-investment campaigns. Sure, it can help, but your first-party data (when collected correctly) is more than enough to market to your audience.

Here are a few ways you can use first-party data in your marketing strategies to engage and convert your target market:

Email marketing

Email marketing is when you use the information you collect about your site visitors through your website and mobile applications to launch targeted email campaigns

For example, if you know the products a customer tends to purchase, add them to a segmented list where they'll receive emails more relevant to their interests.

Contextual advertising

Contextual advertising lets you show Google pay-per-click ads on other relevant sites. You don't need precise third-party (or first-party) data to do this. 

For example, if you sell swimsuits, you might use contextual advertising to sell your products on surfing websites and blogs—you don't necessarily need additional data to know this is where your potential customers might spend their time. 

The only downside to contextual advertising is that it doesn't reveal other less-obvious target markets.

For example, if you only put your ads in front of surfers, there might be a large kayaking and wakeboarding population looking to purchase your swimsuits, too. They just don't have the opportunity because you're not sending them relevant ads where they spend their time.

Abandoned cart remarketing

Abandoned cart remarketing helps minimize when customers visit your site, add an item to their cart, and then leave before checking out. You can use a few different remarketing strategies to get these customers back and win the sale:
  • Abandoned cart emails: Send your customers a follow-up email reminding them about the item they added to their cart. You might provide them with a discount code or free shipping to push them across the purchasing line.
  • Display and search ads: Show your customers the exact items they were looking at instead of showing them generic ads—and let them know through ads when those items go on sale.
  • Social media ad retargeting: Present your customers with relevant ads across social media platforms based on actions and shopping behaviors they showed on your website.

Do more with your first-party data and Segment

First-party and third-party data can help you better market to your audience, but you need more than just data. You need a way to collect, organize, and use your customer data.

Segment helps you connect the data points and unify your customers' touchpoints across platforms and channels to create a single holistic view of each customer. For example, you can know when a customer opened an email, viewed a product, and added it to their cart—all stored under a single customer rather than disjointed data.

Plus, you can use your data in real time. Just spotted a trend in your customer behavior? Send them an email or show them an ad when they're most likely to purchase next. 

Ready to see what Segment can do for your digital marketing data? Sign up for a free account and give it a try.

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